*For more insights from education leaders, head to the Edthena blog.

Watch this #PLtogether Lounge Talk with Doug Reeves about how school leaders can use the 5 D’s for implementing schoolwide initiatives effectively.

You can find the full transcript below:

– Welcome back to this #PLTogether Lounge Talk, if you’re just joining us, I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Athena, where we build video and AI powered tools for teacher professional learning. Today, we’re talking with the bestselling education leadership author, Doug Reeves. Doug, thanks for being with us.

– My pleasure.

– Doug, I wanna switch topics now, I wanna head to a different one of your books, and talk about “Building to Impact: The 5D Implementation Playbook for Educators.” And let’s start at the big picture for someone who might have Googled 5D’s, and this is their opportunity to hear from you, what are the 5D’s? But more importantly, why are they necessary for effectively implementing school improvement initiatives?

– Well, implementation science is really, have been a growing field, but let me first talk about why it is so important. You’ve probably all had the experience of hearing colleagues argue, oh, this programs works, no, it doesn’t work. And the difference obviously is not the program when it’s the same training, the same program, the same materials, the difference is in implementation. And what I learned in a large scale study that I did, was that people think, “Well, gee, they got trained! We delivered the materials, isn’t that enough?” No, it’s not. If you don’t get to deep levels of implementation, then you’re not gonna have an impact on student achievement. And the other thing that we learned as a result of that is that you can’t deeply implement 40 different things as so many schools try to do. So, focusing on a few things is the only thing that gets you to deep levels of implementation. The other thing before I get to the 5D’s, that I of course, must always honor is the work of my co-authors. Aaron Hamilton, who works for Malaysia, is simply brilliant. It’s probably the best, the most scholarly exposition of implementation science that I’ve ever seen. One of my favorite professors would always say she reads books backwards to see who they cited. And you will see extensive citations that Erin did in this part of the book. John Hattie, of course, the world’s leading educational researcher was also a primary influencer of this work. So, with those acknowledgements out of the way, let me just briefly describe the 5D’s. First of all, D one is discovery. You gotta understand what you’re lookin’ for. And what a lot of people do is, they immediately assume my problem is math achievement. Well, maybe it’s math achievement, maybe it’s English language literacy, maybe it’s student endurance and perseverance. You have to, first of all, discover what the problem is. And I think too often, I’ve seen people jump into different programs without understanding what it is what the problem really is. And number two is design. And that means that you really identify the various steps of not only design, but I might also say pre-design. What do I need to do in order to implement this? And sometimes, that means removing other things. I don’t care, colleagues, if you get a billion dollar grant, nobody’s gonna give you a 25-hour day. And so, you’ve gotta, in the design phase, identify not just what to do, but what to stop doing. D3 is delivery. And that may strike you as premature, but I think sometimes we wait too long. One of the least popular chapters I’ve ever written in a book. That book was deep change leadership, was called “The Myth of ‘Buy-in’.” And a lot of people say, “Well Doug, we can’t deliver until we get buy-in from everybody.” If you think you’ve got buy-in from everybody, no, you don’t. Either, A, you’re not asking for change. Or B, all the arguments are happening out in the parking lot. So, you deliver even before there’s buy-in. And you talk to your staff with respect saying, “I know some of you don’t buy into this. I know some of you don’t believe this is gonna work. I’m not asking for buy-in. I’m asking for a fair experiment. For the opportunity to do this, find out what works, find out what doesn’t work, and I promise you, with the D’s that are about to come, we’ll listen to you, and we’ll then come back and see how we can improve this.” So, that leads us to D4, which is double back. I think that’s the missing element in implementation in so many educational programs. We think, well, once we’ve implemented it, when we follow the script to use the current parlance, hey, we did it with fidelity, then the rest is history. No, it isn’t. There’s always problems. There’s always environmental conditions, there’s always political issues. So, we double back and ask ourselves what worked and what didn’t. Let me offer, very practically, the single best idea that I have seen in how we can evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. I colloquially call it the science fair of grownups. And it looks like a kid’s science fair with three panels. What was my challenge? Third grade reading. Ninth grade math, parent engagement, student discipline. You decide, what was my challenge? Second panel, what was my practice? What exactly did I do? For example, I just saw one yesterday, that my practice was, I moved my student practice in ninth grade math from homework to practice in class. They were outta their chairs, they were doing problems all over the wall, they got immediate feedback, what were my results? An 82% failure rate. Now, I’ve seen that at every level, elementary, middle, and high school, challenge, practice, result. And that way, if you make some mistakes, you double back, and you figure out, how can I improve what I did? You don’t just assume that all the promises made in stage one were correct. And then, D5, double up. You start with pilot programs, and then you go system-wide. And I will just tell you, I think people who are researchers like me need to be appropriately modest here. The way you get to doubling up is not, they said, “Oh my goodness, I read a book from Doug Reeves, isn’t that great?” They’ll never do that! They’ll say, “When we double back, we saw the teacher down the hall in room 113, that was really effective, I know it works with our culture, I know it works with our agenda, with our budget, with our union bargaining agreement, now we can make it system-wide.” So, the way you double up is not with the inspirational speaker or the great book, you double up by having local evidence of impact, that’s how that works.

– Well, Doug, we need to take a short break. If you are listening to this or watching this somewhere on the internet or on social media, and want to find out what we talk about next, head to pltogether.org for the rest of this conversation, as well as many more.